–Administration Will Seek Changes in Wiretap Rules to Cover New
(September 27, 2010)
The Obama administration plans to submit a bill to legislators
next year that would require all communications services to have
technology in place so they will be able to comply with wiretap
orders.  Targets include services like BlackBerry, Facebook and
Skype. The administration claims that the increasing use of online
communications has lessened their abilities to intercept communications
of criminal and terrorism suspects. The proposal is likely to require
communications services offering encryption to have method decryption;
to require foreign companies doing business within the US to establish
offices in the country that can intercept the requested communications;
and to require peer-to-peer software developers to redesign their
products to allow interception.  Officials maintain the proposal is
not seeking an expansion of authority, but rather is clarifying how
wiretaps apply to technologies that did not exist when the original
rules were established.  The proposal has met with criticism.  Columbia
University computer science professor Steven M. Bellovin noted that “if
they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited,”
and Center for Democracy and Technology vice president James X. Dempsey
said “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet
services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
[Editor’s Note (Northcutt): Steven Bellovin is correct; there is ZERO
chance of law enforcement being able to implement this and organized
crime not being able to exploit it. This is a lose-lose proposal.
(Pescatore): In 1994, we went through the same drill when phone lines
went digital and thus the Community Assistance to Law Enforcement
Act which forced telecoms vendors to build in back doors to enable
legal surveillance. There always needs to be a balance between what
technology can do and what society allows law enforcement to do.]

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